Heat wave causes water shortage

Last week's heat wave was not only uncomfortable for residents, it also took a toll on Ashland's summer water supply, city officials said.

Temperatures that rose into the mid- to high-90s also increased the demand on water to keep lawns, gardens and flowers alive. This meant a bigger than average drain on Reeder Reservoir, where the city stores municipal water supplies.

Whereas Ashlanders used an average of 5.7 million to 5.8 million gallons in early July during 2004, 2005 and 2006, residents were using close to 7 million gallons a day during the spell of sustained heat last week.

Ashland Water Conservation Analyst and Inspector Robbin Pearce said a hotter-than-normal July and a drier-than-normal spring explain the increased water use.

"It was not only drier, but the heat came a little earlier than normal," Pearce said. "Usually we think of this happening in August. It always makes us anxious because what if it stays hot? We can't sustain this kind of water use."

Reeder Reservoir, located high above Lithia Park in the Ashland Watershed, holds 277 million gallons of water when at capacity. Although snow melt from Mount Ashland is still filtering into the reservoir, last week it was losing more water than it was taking in. Daryl McVey, the supervisor of Ashland water treatment plant, said about 5.8 million gallons were coming in, but at the same time 7 million gallons were leaving. In a more typical year, when July temperatures stay in the low, rather than high, 90s, this kind of water loss doesn't occur until August, he said.

"We were dropping a little bit each day," McVey said, noting that water from Reeder Reservoir, a dammed section of Ashland Creek, also goes back into the stream that flows into Bear Creek. "Part of it could be the temperature, and how dry the ground is."

Ashland's water conservation strategy calls for using less than 6 million gallons per day.

"This will ensure there is adequate water in our reservoirs for not only the heavy irrigation needs for plants and flowers, but also for fire safety and basic needs," said a press release reminding residents to be judicious with their water. "There is plenty of water in the creek and in Reeder Reservoir, but every bit we save now provides that late season 'insurance' if we have a late, dry summer."

The city does not anticipate having to enact watering restrictions, but would consider such actions if "residents are unable to meet conservation goals," according to the press release.

But Pearce added, "Don't panic. We're here to help." She will "come to your house and make recommendations" about how to conserve water.

Residents can schedule an appointment with Pearce to learn specific tricks for saving water, including the best types of vegetation for water conservation, by calling 552-2062.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .

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